Do We Have Souls? – Nov 7

Socratic Conversation with Ron Gross

Thursday, Nov. 7, 4:00 – 5:15 pm

Gottesman Library, Teachers College, Columbia University, 525 West 120th St.
(bet. Broadway and Amsterdam Ave. North side of 120th Street.)

(#1 train to 116th St.)
(Note Change)  Second floor lounge
Please bring a photo ID required for entry to the building.
RSVP to to reserve a place and at meetup

There will be a display of relevant books. Light refreshments will be available.
Coffee and other beverages available downstairs as you enter the building.

Does each of us have an enduring core as a person, irreducible to our physical beings, and the source of some of our most valued capabilities? The belief that we do, has been held by most human beings throughout the ages and in virtually every culture. But that belief has dwindled among a great many people in Western Europe and America.

Now, some leading scientists and religious thinkers are bringing it back. What do you think? We will explore how emerging insights relate to our own convictions, feelings, and questions.

For example, some evolutionary biologists are speculating that a person’s soul is the information in his or her DNA. Others working in humanistic traditions, like Joseph Campbell, Scott Peck, and Harry Moody, have delineated stages of spiritual growth through which they contend that our souls develop. Here at Columbia, the idea of a “distributed soul” which inheres in relationships between people, rather than within each individual, has been proposed by Prof. Robert Pollack of the Center for the Study of Science and Religion.

We will explore the many different ways in which the word Soul is used, ranging from the Chicken Soup for the Soul series of best-selling self-help books, to referring to the “souls” of nations or organizations or even technologies*, to using the term “Great Souls” to describe outstanding people like Gandhi or Martin Luther King.

Please join us to share your views on questions and issues such as:

Ø Is the idea that we have souls meaningful in your own philosophy of life?

Ø Does your heritage (religious/cultural/ethnic) have a concept of “souls” that is important to you? (Almost all do.)

Ø How do you feel about the idea of “seeking one’s soul-mate”?

Ø Do you believe that the spirits of loved ones who’ve passed away, endure somehow?

Ø Does the way you live your life, and the key decisions you make, form your soul? Do we have souls which change for better or worse in the course of our lives? Can some ways of working or living, corrode your soul?

Suggested Reading or Viewing (optional): Do We Have Souls?, by Tim O’Connor, at
Ghost in the Machine: Is There a Soul?, on Youtube at

The Soul Hypothesis: Investigations Into the Existence of the Soul, Edited by Mark C. Baker and Stewart Goetz
The Five Stages of the Soul: Charting the Spiritual Passages That Shape Our Lives, by Harry R., Moody and David Carroll.

*”Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.” Steve Jobs, founder of Apple.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s